LAS CRUCES, N.M. (Sept. 25)-Due to a new NCAA rule, the New Mexico State men’s basketball team can begin practice earlier than ever in 2013-14. The Aggies return to the hardwood as back-to-back WAC Tournament Championships with two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. The Aggies start practice for the 2013-14 season, Sunday, Sept. 29.
The Aggies return three starters from last year and have to replace significant contributors in forwards Bandja Sy and Tyrone Watson. Junior guard Daniel Mullings leads the returning players after a team-high 13.8 points per game, 91 assists and 79 steals a year ago. Sophomore center Sim Bhullar, who was the WAC Freshman of the Year, is back after averaging 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and a school-record 85 blocked shots. Junior guard K.C. Ross-Miller returns after starting 26 games in his first season in Las Cruces.
“I’m really optimistic to get things started with the mix of new talent and returning talent,” head coach Marvin Menzies said. “I think it’s going to be a very exciting season. I also feel that our non-conference schedule is one that puts a lot of competition and diverse talent in front of us, which will allow us to have a successful non-conference but yet be challenged to the fullest.”
Additional letter winners returning for NM State include senior guard Kevin Aronis, who hit a team-high 31 3-point field goals in 2012-13, and senior forward Renaldo Dixon, who averaged 5.6 points per game and 46 rejections.
Forwards junior Remi Barry and sophomore Matej Buovac return after seeing action in 27 and 12 games, respectively, last season.
“I think we added some athleticism in losing Bandja (Sy), and that was something we wanted to do right away at forward,” Menzies said. “I think some of the experiences that guys have had over the summer will help to give us an advantage in that area as well.
“That might be the one area, where it could be really, really strong based on the talent level, but there is going to be a learning curve early in the season. So if they figure it out quickly, then overall it’s going to make us a better program.”
Redshirt junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe is back after missing most of the 2012-13 season due to a hand injury.
“Obviously, we have a lot of size inside,” he said. “At that position in general, we have some experience with Renaldo (Dixon), Tshilidzi (Nephawe) and Sim (Bhullar), specifically, which gives us a good comfort level going into the season. I think those guys will continue to get better, and I’m optimistic about their production this year.”
Redshirt freshman forward Aaron Kubinski beings his on-court career this year. NM State welcomes four newcomers in freshman guard Travon Landry, junior guard DK Eldridge, freshman center Tanveer Bhullar and freshman guard Ian Baker, who won’t be available until the second semester.
“I feel like our guard position is pretty strong,” Menzies said. “We have a couple unknowns there in the new guys. Quite often young kids come in with a lot of accolades and might be heavily recruited or have high rankings and so forth but a freshman is a still freshman. We have two good ones in Ian (Baker) and Travon (Landry), who I feel are going to have really good careers as Aggies, but they are untested now. I’m intrigued to see how well they are going to perform.
“It’s good to have Daniel (Mullings), K.C. (Ross-Miller) and Kevin (Aronis) and some of the other returning guards back that give us that experience and that strength of talent at that position, so I’m pretty comfortable with that position overall.”
In 2012-13, the Aggies posted a 24-11 overall record and won their third WAC Tournament crown and made their third NCAA Tournament showing in four years.